Nominet, the internet registry responsible for running the .uk ccTLD, today published a press release announcing the implementation of a post-registration screening process to weed out domain names hinting at forbidden sexual practices. Those would be much easier to catch than other unlawful activities.
This is taking place after a review undertaken in 2013 by former Director of Public Prosecution Lord Ken Macdonald concluded that while pre-register screenings are not feasible, leading to far too many false-positives and thus undermining the UK government’s support of free speech (and the European Convention), a post-registration filtering and screening process indeed would be feasible and would help Nominate to protect the public from being exposed to domain names like rapehimnow.co.uk.
The review indicates that 20 to 25 newly registered domains per week would need screening and of those none would usually be de-registered/reported to Police.
Lord Macdonald also hints at the obvious problems anyone who wants to automatically filter “bad” words faces: False-positives & context assessment. He even states some of the more famous examples of these issues in relation to domain names such as penisland.com.
While Macdonald repeatedly stresses the important of free speech in general and the question of taste in regard to censorship, he caves in (in chapter seven) and postulates that post-registration filtering and screening to weed out the odd, possibly unlawful domain name is worth it.
B for effort.
Originally aimed at “unlawful” domain names, Macdonald at one point concludes that ONLY domains with words related to sex crimes could possibly be filtered and screened. All other crimes are just to hard to detect. Huh.
In chapters 8 and 9, Macdonald explains PRSS (an automated system open to everyone who pays 400 GBP/a plus a large group of NGO and executive offices with which to query the .uk zone file) and defends (or tries to defend, depending on your point of view) why the Dispute Resolution Service DRS is not good enough to help in Nominate ongoing effort to keep the .uk zone file clean.
Photo by Pete Markham, CC-BY-SA.